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Vol. III. No. 13. June 21, 1906. 

The Journal of Philosophy 
Psychology and Scientific Methods 



G. PAPINI AND THE PRAGMATIST MOVEMENT IN ITALY 

AMERICAN students have so long had the habit of turning to 
Germany for their philosophic inspiration, that they are only 
beginning to recognize the splendid psychological and philosophical 
activity with which France to-day is animated; and as for poor 
little Italy, few of them think it necessary even to learn to read her 
language. Meanwhile Italy is engaged in the throes of an intel- 
lectual rinascimento quite as vigorous as her political one. Her sons 
still class the things of thought somewhat too politically, making 
partizan capital, clerical or positivist, of every conquest or concession, 
but that is only the slow dying of a habit born in darker times. The 
ancient genius of her people is evidently unweakened, and the tend- 
ency to individualism that has aways marked her is beginning to 
mark her again as strongly as ever, and nowhere more notably than 
in philosophy. 

As an illustration, let me give a brief account of the aggressive 
movement in favor of 'pragmatism' which the monthly journal 
Leonardo (published at Florence, and now in its fourth year) is 
carrying on, with the youthful Giovanni Papini tipping the wedge 
of it as editor, and the scarcely less youthful names of Prezzolini, 
Vailati, Calderoni, Amendola and others, signing the more con- 
spicuous articles. To one accustomed to the style of article that 
has usually discussed pragmatism, Deweyism, or radical empiricism, 
in this country, and more particularly in this Journal, the Italian 
literature of the subject is a surprising, and to the present writer 
a refreshing, novelty. Our university seminaries (where so many 
bald-headed and bald-hearted young aspirants for the Ph.D. have 
all these years been accustomed to bore one another with the 
pedantry and technicality, formless, uncircumcised, unabashed and 
unrebuked, of their 'papers' and 'reports') are bearing at last the 
fruit that was to be expected, in an almost complete blunting of the 
literary sense in the more youthful philosophers of our land. Surely 
no other country could utter in the same number of months as badly 
written a philosophic mass as ours has published since Dewey's 

337 



338 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 

'Studies in Logical Theory' came out. Germany is not 'in it' with 
us, in my estimation, for uncouthness of form. 

In this Florentine band of Leonardists, on the other hand, we 
find, instead of heaviness, length and obscurity, lightness, clearness 
and brevity, with no lack of profundity or learning (quite the re- 
verse, indeed), and a frolicsomeness and impertinence that wear the 
charm of youth and freedom. Signor Papini in particular has a 
real genius for cutting and untechnical phraseology. He can write 
descriptive literature, polychromatic with adjectives, like a decadent, 
and clear up a subject by drawing cold distinctions, like a scholastic. 
As he is the most enthusiastic pragmatist of them all (some of his 
colleagues make decided reservations) I will speak of him exclusively. 
He advertises a general work on the pragmatist movement as in 
press; but the February number of Leonardo and the last chapter 
of his just published volume, 'II Crepuscolo dei Filosofi,' 1 give his 
program, and announce him as the most radical conceiver of prag- 
matism to be found anywhere. 

The 'Crepuscolo' book calls itself in the preface a work of 'pas- 
sion,' being a settling of the author's private accounts with several 
philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Comte, Spencer, Neitzsche) 
and a clearing of his mental tables from their impeding rubbish, so 
as to leave him the freer for constructive business. I will only say 
of the critical chapters that they are strongly thought and pungently 
written. The author hits essentials, but he doesn't always cover 
everything, and more than he has said, either for or against, remains 
to be said about both Kant and Hegel. It is the preface and the 
final chapter of the book that contain the passion. The 'good rid- 
dance,' which is Papini 's cry of farewell to the past of philosophy, 
seems most of all to signify for him a good-by to its exaggerated 
respect for universals and abstractions. Keality for him exists only 
distributively, in the particular concretes of experience. Abstracts 
and universals are only instruments by which we meet and handle 
these latter. 

In an article in Leonardo last year, 2 he states the whole pragmatic 
scope and program very neatly. Fundamentally, he says, it means 
an unstiffening of all our theories and beliefs by attending to their 
instrumental value. It incorporates and harmonizes various ancient 
tendencies, as 

1. Nominalism, by which he means the appeal to the particular. 
Pragmatism is nominalistic not only in regard to words, but in re- 
gard to phrases and to theories. 

2. Utilitarianism, or the emphasizing of practical aspects and 
problems. 

1 Milano : Societa Editrice Lombarda. 

2 April, 1905, p. 45. 



PSYCHOLOGY AND SCIENTIFIC METHODS 339 

3. Positivism, or the disdain of verbal and useless questions. 

4. Kantism, in so far as Kant affirms the primacy of practical 
reason. 

5. Voluntarism, in the psychological sense, of the intellect's sec- 
ondary position. 

6. Fideism, in its attitude towards religious questions. 
Pragmatism, according to Papini, is thus only a collection of 

attitudes and methods, and its chief characteristic is its armed 
neutrality in the midst of doctrines. It is like a corridor in a hotel, 
from which a hundred doors open into a hundred chambers. In one 
you may see a man on his knees praying to regain his faith; in 
another a desk at which sits some one eager to destroy all meta- 
physics; in a third a laboratory with an investigator looking for 
new footholds by which to advance upon the future. But the cor- 
ridor belongs to all, and all must pass there. Pragmatism, in short, 
is a great corridor-theory. 

In the 'Crepuscolo' Sig. Papini says that what pragmatism has 
always meant for him is the necessity of enlarging our means of 
action, the vanity of the universal as such, the bringing of our 
spiritual powers into use, and the need of making the world over 
instead of merely standing by and contemplating it. It inspires 
human activity, in short, differently from other philosophies. 

"The common denominator to which all the forms of human 
life can be reduced is this : the quest of instruments to act with, or, 
in other words, the quest of power." 

By ' action ' Sig. Papini means any change into which man enters 
as a conscious cause, whether it be to add to existing reality or to 
substract from it. Art, science, religion and philosophy all are but 
so many instruments of change. Art changes things for our vision ; 
religion for our vital tone and hope; science tells us how to change 
the course of nature and our conduct towards it; philosophy is only 
a more penetrating science. Tristan and Isolde, Paradise, Atoms, 
Substance, neither of them copies anything real; all are creations 
placed above reality, to transform, build out and interpret it in the 
interests of human need or passion. Instead of affirming with the 
positivists that we must render the ideal world as similar as possible 
to the actual, Sig. Papini emphasizes our duty of turning the actual 
world into as close a copy of the ideal as it will let us. The various 
ideal worlds are here because the real world fails to satisfy us. 
They are more adapted to us, realize more potently our desires. We 
should treat them as ideal limits towards which reality must ever- 
more be approximated. 

All our ideal instruments are as yet imperfect. Arts, religions, 
sciences, philosophies, have their vices and defects, and the worst 



340 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 

of all are those of the philosophies. But philosophy can be regen- 
erated. Since change and action are the most general ideals possible, 
philosophy can become a 'pragmatic' in the strict sense of the word, 
meaning a general theory of human action. Ends and means can 
here be studied together, in the abstractest and most inclusive way, 
so that philosophy can resolve itself into a comparative discussion 
of all the possible programs for man's life when man is once for all 
regarded as a creative being. 

As such, man becomes a kind of god, and where are we to draw his 
limits? In an article called 'From Man to God' in the Leonardo 
for last February Sig. Papini lets his imagination work at stretching 
the limits. His attempt will be called Promethean or bullfroggian, 
according to the temper of the reader. It has decidedly an element 
of literary swagger and conscious impertinence, but I confess that I 
am unable to treat it otherwise than respectfully. Why should not 
the divine attributes of omniscience and omnipotence be used by man 
as the pole-stars by which he may methodically lay his own course ? 
Why should not divine rest be his own ultimate goal, rest attained by 
an activity in the end so immense that all desires are satisfied, and 
no more action necessary? The unexplored powers and relations of 
man, both physical and mental, are certainly enormous; why should 
we impose limits on them a priori? And, if not, why are the most 
Utopian programs not in order? 

The program of a Man-God is surely one of the possible great 
type-programs of philosophy. I myself have been slow in coming 
into the full inwardness of pragmatism. Schiller's writings and 
those of Dewey and his school have taught me some of its wider 
reaches; and in the writings of this youthful Italian, clear in spite 
of all their brevity and audacity, I find not only a way in which our 
English views might be developed farther with consistency— at 
least so it appears to me — but also a tone of feeling well fitted to 
rally devotees and to make of pragmatism a new militant form of 
religious or quasi-religious philosophy. 

The supreme merit of it in these adventurous regions is that it 
can never grow doctrinarian in advance of verification, or make 
dogmatic pretensions. 

When, as one looks back from the actual world that one believes 
and lives and moves in, and tries to understand how the knowledge 
of its content and structure ever grew up step by step in our minds, 
one has to confess that objective and subjective influences have so 
mingled in the process that it is impossible now to disentangle their 
contributions or to give to either the primacy. When a man has 
walked a mile, who can say whether his right or his left leg is the 
more responsible? and who can say whether the water or the clay 



PSYCHOLOGY AND SCIENTIFIC METHODS 341 

is most to be thanked for the evolution of the bed of an existing 
river? Something like this I understand to be Messrs. Dewey's and 
Schiller's contention about 'truth.' The subjective and objective 
factors of any presently functioning body of it are lost in the night 
of time and indistinguishable. Only the way in which we see a new 
truth develop shows us that, by analogy, subjective factors must 
always have been active. Subjective factors thus are potent, and their 
effects remain. They are in some degree creative, then; and this 
carries with it, it seems to me, the admissibility of the entire Italian 
pragmatistic program. But, be the God-Man part of it sound or 
foolish, the Italian pragmatists are an extraordinarily well-informed 
and gifted, and above all an extraordinarily free and spirited and 
unpedantic, group of writers. 

Willjam James. 
Habvabd University. 



THE DETECTION OF COLOEr-BLINDNESS * 

A T the recent Cambridge meeting of the American Psychological 
-*--*- Association, in the course of a discussion of color vision and 
especially of color-blindness, one of the speakers made the claim that 
a person deficient in color sense could be trained in a short time so 
that he could pass successfully the Holmgren test for color-blindness, 
which in some form or other is the one usually employed where it 
is practically important to determine defective color vision. If 
this is the case, and there are numerous evidences in the literature 
of color-blindness substantiating the claim, then it would seem to 
be desirable and important to discover a test which can be applied 
at once expeditiously and with greater certainty of detection. Forty 
or more tests of a scientific or practical character have been devised. 
All of these methods are based on the naming or matching of colors, 
the confusion of colors being in fact the basis of all of them. 

Professor Cattell, in various discussions of the time of perception 
as a measure of differences in sensations, has suggested the value of 
this method in determining sense deficiencies. So far as I know, no 
application of the method to testing color vision has been made 
except in the experiments and results to be reported here. They 
form part of a general investigation into the application of this 
method to the measurement of differences in sensations. 2 

1 Paper read at the Princeton meeting of the Section of Anthropology and 
Psychology of the New York Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the New 
York Section of the American Psychological Association. 

2 To be published shortly in the Archives of Philosophy, Psychology and 
Scientific Methods.